Big 4 accounting firms recruit most of their first-year staff through campus recruiting. Most candidates receive their offers through either first round or second round hires.
First round candidates usually intern in the summer before graduation. At the end of the summer internship, they are given an official “start date” which is usually 12-18 months later, that is, anytime from September of next year to January in the year after.
The second round of new hires are usually given offers in the months leading up to their start dates. Start dates usually coincide with the start of academic semesters. Big 4 tend to hire “way out”, i.e. hiring people many months in advance of the intended start dates.
The above Big 4 hiring process applies only for “new hires”, i.e. those without full-time experience. Professional hires are made at any point during the year when there is a need.
The firm typically mails out, via FedEx/UPS, a formal offer packet which includes the terms of the offer. HR will follow-up that packet with a phone call to ensure the new hires received it and ensure they don’t have any unanswered questions.
Like many big financial institutions, Big 4 accounting firms start a year early to fill up their first-year class.
Fall is the biggest hiring season as recruiters look for candidates who will be starting in summer, winter and fall of next year. Most first-year staffs prefer to start in September as they would like to enjoy their “last” summer holidays before work.
A typical candidate goes through the Big 4 hiring process via campus recruiting. The information session and signing up for interviews start in fall, shortly after the beginning of school year. Students receive first and second round interviews in the month of November. Successful ones are notified within a week. If they decline the offer, recruiters will call the ones on the waiting list.
Having said that, the hiring process is technically year round due to staff shortages in certain offices.
Some firms have one starting date when everyone attend the training. Others may have several start dates nationally, because they have to stagger them somewhat in order to accommodate everyone (both new and experienced hires) as well as meeting local office staffing needs.
If you don’t attend one of the target schools, you will need to work harder to get a slot in the interview. Call up a recruiter and ask whether they are willing to see you when there is a campus interview in a neighboring school.
Flexibility helps as well. If you want to join Big 4 as a lateral hire, you might want to indicate early that you can be available off-season. Specifically, you can ask whether there are offices that need staff immediately.
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